CNP Action 2020 Donors
This document, a slide from a presentation at a CNP Action event, identifies 21 contributors to CNP Action in 2020.
New documents reveal that Ginni Thomas remained on the board of Council for National Policy Action (“CNP Action”) in 2020 as it worked to support former President Donald Trump’s attempted election coup.
Documented has additionally obtained a list of funders to the organization that year, as well as recordings, documents, and other materials that provide further evidence of Thomas’ advocacy related to the 2020 election.
According to a tax filing obtained by Documented, Thomas remained on CNP Action's nine-member board of directors in 2020, as the group promoted baseless election fraud conspiracies, urged Republican legislatures in swing states to reject Biden's win, and pressed Congress to only count Trump electors from those states. Thomas’ 2020 role in CNP Action has not been confirmed until now.
Separate materials obtained by Documented describe the 2020 donors who bankrolled CNP Action's activities that year. Those donors include:
Other CNP Action donors include Paige Patterson, the controversial former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and executives from groups like Susan B. Anthony List and Independent Women’s Voice, which regularly participate in litigation before the Supreme Court. The amount contributed by each donor is not known.
Additionally, as described in the timeline below, Documented has obtained several years of recordings and other materials that show Thomas’s long history with CNP Action and its sister organization, the Council for National Policy (“CNP”).
These CNP recordings and materials document the group's efforts both before and after the 2020 election to narrow access to the ballot and to lay the groundwork for Trump’s attempted coup. They show Thomas' close working relationship with CNP member Cleta Mitchell, the Trump legal advisor who was on the call where the president pressured the Georgia Secretary of State to “find 11,780 votes.” They also show CNP’s attempts after January 6 to thwart the work of the bipartisan committee examining the attack on the Capitol.
Thomas has already faced scrutiny for dozens of texts that she had sent White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in late 2020 urging him to overturn the election. Taken together, these materials provide further evidence of Thomas' ties to the attempted election coup, and may deepen pressure for her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to recuse from cases relating to the election and the violence on January 6.
In May of 2019, Thomas jointly addressed a CNP conference with Mitchell, who would later join President Trump’s legal team and peddle election fraud myths. “I’m so thankful that CNP put Charlie Kirk and Cleta and I all together—it really goes very well,” Thomas said. “Watch what happens.”
At the event, Thomas described a new project called Crowdsourcers, as well as a separate PAC and nonprofit to “protect President Trump,” both of which were to be set up by Mitchell. The PAC/nonprofit venture was slated to do business under the name “American D-Day.” There is no record of a PAC or nonprofit having been registered with the Federal Election Commission or IRS under that name, although it is not known whether the project advanced under a different name. Documented first reported on the details of this project in 2019, in partnership with The Intercept.
On February 28, 2020, CNP Action sponsored a session at a CNP conference that described the upcoming election in nearly apocalyptic terms and—before a single ballot had even been cast—warned that Democrats were planning to engage in widespread fraud through practices like vote by mail.
One panelist, True the Vote’s Catherine Engelbrecht, warned that Democrats would use “mob rule” to siege the 2020 elections with fraudulent votes: “The swarming tactics of a radicalized socialist mindset is a dangerous thing to behold.” Another panelist, Save Our States’ Trent England, warned that the “inner city” is “where the fraud happens,” and stressed the need to find Republican poll watchers in urban and tribal precincts. This was another CNP story that Documented first reported on in partnership with The Intercept.
During the question-and-answer portion of the February 2020 session, American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) CEO Lisa Nelson stated that ALEC had been working on “action items that [state] legislators can take to question the validity of an election.” Nelson told the group, “obviously we all want President Trump to win, and win the national vote. But it's very clear from all the comments and all the suggestions up front that really what it comes down to is the states, and the state legislators.”
The idea that Republican-led state legislatures could overturn their state’s popular vote and appoint Trump electors would be a key part of Trump’s attempted coup strategy.
In the days after the 2020 election, CNP Action sponsored a session at the CNP conference titled “Election Results and Legal Battles: What Now?” According to the conference agenda, the panel included Cleta Mitchell, who at the time was advising the Trump campaign, and publicly making voter fraud claims too absurd even for Fox News hosts. The other panelists, Heritage Action’s Hans von Spakovsky and the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF)’s J. Christian Adams, were also top purveyors of voter fraud myths.
Following the November 11, 2020 session, CNP Action circulated an “Action Steps” document urging the group’s powerful members to contact state lawmakers in three swing states that tipped the balance for Joe Biden—Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania—and press them to reject the election results and appoint Trump electors. “Demand that they not abandon their Constitutional responsibilities during a time such as this,” the document advised. The “Action Steps” document additionally urged state legislators to contact lawmakers in other states to “amplify” that it is state legislators’ “duty to appoint electors to the Electoral College.”
Those “Action Steps” tracked efforts by Trump’s legal team to overturn the election. As Barton Gellman concluded at The Atlantic:
[T]he strategic objective of nearly every move by the Trump team after the networks called the election for Joe Biden on November 7 was to induce Republican legislatures in states that Biden won to seize control of the results and appoint Trump electors instead. Every other objective—in courtrooms, on state election panels, in the Justice Department, and in the office of the vice president—was instrumental to that end.
In December 2020, CNP Action circulated a newsletter that included a 21-page report titled “Five States and the Election Irregularities and Issues,” which also described steps that state legislatures or Congress could take to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Metadata shows that Cleta Mitchell—who was still advising the Trump campaign—created the report. The report focused on alleged “irregularities” in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where Trump and his allies were pressing litigation, but where time was running out for courts to “declare the elections null and void.”
As was the case with the “Action Steps” document, the December 8 report backed the Trump campaign’s effort to pressure state lawmakers to ignore vote counts and appoint Trump electors. The report asserted that, in light of the fraud that the Trump campaign (falsely) alleged in its lawsuits, in each of those five states, “the State Legislature must reclaim its constitutional authority and responsibility to do what the constitution requires: appoint the presidential electors.”
In addition to backing the Trump campaign’s unlawful call for state legislatures to ignore voters and appoint Trump electors, the report additionally declared that “Congress has the ultimate responsibility for receiving and counting the electoral college votes,” and that “[t]here is no constitutional obligation for Congress to accept fraudulent vote and electoral votes.”
This argument helped set the stage for members of Congress to make spurious objections to the electoral vote count. Additionally, during the same period that Thomas’ CNP Action was advocating for Congress to count false electors, Thomas was in contact with multiple Congressional offices about supporting Trump.
CNP’s Conservative Action Project publicly called for state legislatures and Congress to overturn the results of the election in a letter signed by dozens of high-profile CNP members. The letter, which cited the December 8 “Five States and the Election Irregularities” report, asserted that “There is no doubt President Donald J. Trump is the lawful winner of the presidential election. Joe Biden is not president-elect.”
[L]egislatures in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan should exercise their plenary power under the Constitution and appoint clean slates of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump. Similarly, both the House and Senate should accept only these clean Electoral College slates and object to and reject any competing slates in favor of Vice President Biden from these states."
Again, CNP was asking state and federal legislatures to ignore the law and the constitution. After voters have already cast ballots, state legislatures cannot simply ignore the will of voters and choose their own electors. And Congress cannot just count the “alternate electors” selected for Trump. Republicans in battleground states did try to appoint themselves as illegitimate “alternate electors,” as part of a scheme orchestrated by Trump campaign officials and Rudy Giuliani, but the plot ultimately failed.
CNP’s December 10 letter was signed by at least two individuals who would go on to organize the Jan. 6 rally: Tea Party Patriots Chair Jenny Beth Martin and conservative activist Ed Martin.
As the January 6 electoral count drew near, on December 30, 2020, CNP's Conservative Action Project sent the U.S. Senate a letter demanding "a public hearing prior to the counting of electoral votes on January 6," and that the Senate "review the evidence of the problems of the state elections, particularly in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona. We ask you to study carefully and consider the Constitutional obligations and duties conferred upon you as Senators. Be willing to stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law, and contest the electoral votes from these states."
The letter came the same day that Sen. Josh Hawley announced that he would be contesting election results in Pennsylvania.
Just over a week after the January 6 attack, CNP's Conservative Action Project issued a statement condemning violence, but declaring that "the actions of 8 Senators and 139 House members, including Sen. Josh Hawley, Sen. Ted Cruz, and many others, who intended to or did debate the certification of certain states’ 2020 electors is not, and never will be, tantamount to violence. The right and ability to object to electoral certification is written into the Constitution and housed in the procedural rights of those who represent us."
On December 15, 2021, CNP’s Conservative Action Project distributed another letter—this one signed by Thomas—calling the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack an “overtly partisan political persecution,” and demanding that the two Republican lawmakers on the panel, Reps. Lynn Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, be stripped from their membership in the Republican conference.
Days before the anniversary of the January 6 attack, on January 3, 2022, CNP's Conservative Action Project sent another letter attacking the January 6 committee, calling its efforts to investigate the Capitol attack an “assault on the rule of law which is a bedrock principle of our form of government.”